Since the Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made Christianity the official religion of Rome in 380 AD Christianity has been the dominant religion of the North West Hemisphere. Everyone was Christian and no one would question the Church (by love or by force) for nearly 1400 years. But that time has ended. The Industrial Revolution first and now with the Tech Revolution we are a much smaller world with much more personal choice in religious belief. More and more people are opting out of the church, yet Jesus remains popular. Why?
Why do people who love Jesus and profess to follow Jesus turn off so many?
Perceptions of the church are shocking. The Barna Group did a survey of non-Christian young adults on what their perceptions of Christians are, they said:
91% thought Christians were anti-homosexual
87% thought Christians were judgmental
85% thought Christians were Hypocritical
70% thought Christians were insensitive
Yet people look at Jesus and they love him. They see Jesus as a guy who stood up to the religious hypocrites and confronted them with the way they judged others. Jesus ate with sinners. He hung out with them and knew them and cared for them and they loved him in return.
Are we the church of Jesus being more like Jesus or like the religious people he critiqued??
Here are 4 things Jesus critiqued about the religious leaders of his time:
1. They had Wrong Motives
Jesus condemned those who prayed out on the street corner so everyone could see them, he criticized those who made a big show of their generosity and giving. He said we shouldn't do religious things to get pats on the back -- thats the wrong reason. You can do a good thing for the wrong reason -- and it does negate the good thing because people see your attitude and are turned off. If you want to serve God, if you want to do something good for others then great - hallelujah! But if you are just putting in your time and inside you aren't joyful about what you are doing then go home. Think about it, pray about it and do good for the sake of doing good not for the sake of recognition.
2. They pointed out other's sin.
Superiority and moral pride turns people off. No one wants to feel looked down on. No one wants to be told they are bad. Inside we know that everyone has their own issues and their own sins. We need to focus on our own sin and loving others with radical acceptance.
3. Majoring in the Minors
The Pharisees condemned Jesus for healing on the Sabbath (technically breaking the law). But they missed the bigger message of love and God's healing power because they were too worried about the little things. We have to learn to let things go -- don't sweat the small stuff. It makes us look bad, it makes the church look bad and it makes Jesus look bad when we get bent out of shape over small things.
4. Being Two-Faced
Come to worship as you are. Don't put on a different face, use different words or act different because you are around "church people". As a minister I find it refreshing when I'm in a different place where no one knows my profession and people are being real, being themselves. But all too often they ask about what I do and all of a sudden they become different. It makes me sad. God doesn't love us only on our "best behavior" God loves us as we are and the world respects us when we are real.